Packing for a trip can be a daunting task.

There are lots of factors that impact what you may or may not want to bring on any given trip. There is, however, a core set of “must haves” that go on all of my trips. I have found that having an organized system allows me to be out more. There is less of a barrier around packing and preparing, and in a world where school, work, and other obligations take up a majority of our time, a quick and easy get-out will always help with the flow of your trip.

The Keys to Organizational Success

The first thing that needs to be emphasized in this series is that organization is paramount. Depending on your resources, and living situation, and storage space, this can be challenging.

There are, however, easy and cost-effective ways to keep your gear organized. For a long time, I relied on a system of milk crates and boxes to store my gear. This was somewhat effective but ultimately led to more disorganization and things spilling around in my car. It has been a fun evolution of refinement and improvement to land where I currently am.

There are many, many different ways to pack for a trip. This is just my way! Take all or parts of the info that work for you and integrate it into your own unique system! Below is how I typically break down the components of my packing:

  • Ammo can
  • Community box (kitchen and camp equipment)
  • Sleep kit
  • Gear kit (bag of gear for your specialized pursuit...climbing, kayaking, fly fishing, etc….)
  • Food

Part 1: The Ammo Can

Ammo cans are a staple of expeditionary rafting. They are inexpensive, waterproof, and military grade so they won’t break any time soon. As you can see, I got somewhat creative with my paint job—I encourage everyone to do the same. The best part is, this box is the size of a shoebox and can literally go everywhere with you.

This is definitely the most fun part of my system. I like to say that the ammo can probably won’t save your life, but it will make your life easier. My own personal ammo can came to me in 2012 when a friend and I were preparing for a two-person trip down the Grand Canyon. The idea was that we wanted to have important things with us which would be both useful and sentimental, and would stay dry and safe as well as provide some comfort, entertainment, and ease on our trip. My ammo can has gone on every single trip since that point, and I am so thankful for it!

The contents of this box have changed and evolved over time as well. Some things will always be in this box, and others will come and go as I lose them or they lose their significance or usefulness. On my first trip with the box, I would crawl into my tent and open the box every night and empty its contents. As I pulled things out, some were helpful...a little salve for my cracked knuckles; and some were just fun...a black-and-white photo of 12-year-old me staring up at my cross-country coach. All of it was important. The can has saved the day, given me strength, and been a receptacle for treasures and tools alike.

I strongly encourage everyone who regularly spends time sleeping in the dirt to build one.

So without getting too long winded, here is what is in my ammo can as it exists today. Sitting there waiting for me to pick it up and be off on the next adventure.

My ammo can…(I swear all of this fits)

  • Lucci Lantern
  • Bendable Jesus
  • River knife
  • Iodine tabs
  • Headlamp
  • Photos
  • Handwritten notes
  • Playing cards
  • 2 homemade salves from friends
  • Crescent wrench
  • AAA batteries
  • Hand sani
  • Lighters
  • 2 pairs of stunner shades
  • Earplugs
  • Tear aid repair patch
  • Dice
  • GC Journal
  • Drawings by nephews
  • Birthday card
  • Butterflies and Moths field guide
  • California Audubon field guide
  • Gore-tex repair kit
  • Superglue
  • Poems and quotes given to me by a friend
  • Back-up headlamp
  • Survival bracelet made by a youth
  • AA batteries
  • 2012 GC itinerary
  • Sewing kit
  • Personal quote book
  • Fishing lure
  • Sharpies
  • Pens
  • Button on a string
  • Lavender oil
  • Army men
  • Micro Machines
  • Zip ties
  • GC sand from my shoes on the last trip
  • Duct tape
  • Agate from my mom

You get the idea? Put the things in there you might want or need, watch it change over time. One thing is for certain, you will be thankful you have this once you get out there. It is easy to make, can save the day, will warm your heart, and bring you a little joy and comfort while you are out.

I would encourage the reader to head over to our facebook page to see a video of the contents just for fun!